Adventures In Audio
Hands On: Apple Macintosh Computers (part 3)

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Tuesday August 29, 2006

How it Works

If you haven’t used a Mac before then you won’t believe how simple
and sensible it is. It’s not as simple and sensible as computers that will
probably be invented a decade or two into the next century, but comparing it
to MSDOS or Windows is like comparing a CD player to a wind up gramophone. Even
people who can’t change a fuse can use it - and don’t let any computer
nerd tell you this isn’t the way things should be. The Atari operating
system is fairly easy to use and is similar to the Mac, but once you have used
the Mac you’ll see how many features Atari had to leave out to get round
Apple’s patents and copyrights.

Figure 1 shows an opening screen - the desktop - similar to what you will
see on the SE or Classic you have connived your way into experimenting with.
At the top left is the expected menu bar. At the top right is a clock which
is a software addition to my system and appears in most programs but not Cubase
(but who cares about time when you’re making music?). The Mac icon next
to the clock shows that MultiFinder is active, which means that you can have
more than one program active at the same time. (Knowledgeable readers will have
noticed that this computer is running System 6 rather than System 7 - I have
explained why in a sidebar). Beneath these are two icons for hard disks, one
is the internal disk and the other is my removable optical disk, which the Mac
regards as a huge floppy. If I had been using a floppy disk then that would
appear on the desktop too. (The ‘DM’ in the icons is there because
I used Disk Manager software to install the optical disk - I didn’t have
them personally monogrammed!). Any disk can be named simply by clicking on the
icon with the mouse and typing in the new name. You can edit the existing name
by clicking on that. Disk management is a strong feature; the floppy disk drive
is motorised so once you put the disk in, the system takes over for you. If
the software wants you to change disks, you will be prompted for the new disk
by its name, and the wrong one won’t do. If you eject a disk yourself (by
pressing Apple-E), its grey outline will remain, and also any windows you had
opened from that disk. You can have several of these outlines on the desktop
at any time to assist your disk navigation. To eject a disk and remove the outline,
drag the disk icon to the wastebasket - note that this doesn’t erase the
disk, you would be forgiven for thinking that it might.

You’ll notice from Figures 1 and 2 that the icons are rather more meaningful
than those that appear on the screen of the Atari. What’s more, you can
move them round to anywhere on the screen. If you don’t like icons then
you can have a list, as shown in Figure 3, which gives you all the data you
need including the last modification date (you can access the date of creation
using the Get Info command in the File menu). I’ll leave you to speculate
why three of my files are dated 2nd January 1904! Interesting features about
the Mac’s windows include the fact that the scroll bars scroll properly
(not like on earlier Atari operating systems); that if you click the full size
icon at the top right, then the window remembers the size and position it had
and returns correctly when you click the icon again. Perhaps the most important
feature is that, as you can see, file names can be up to 31 characters and can
include capital letters and spaces. This one simple feature, in my opinion,
elevates the Mac way above other computers because I can see from the file name
what the file actually is. I currently have over a thousand files on my hard
disk and I really do prefer the ‘Fast delicate classical’ of Figure
3 to ‘FSTDLCLS.SNG’, which it would be in Windows or on an Atari.

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